Microsoft’s BPOS: Cloud Computing’s Silver Lining?

Behind The Cloud

When arrived in the dot-com frenzy of 1999, it was announced as “the end of software.” This bit of IPO-fed hyperbole implied that client software was dead and simply didn’t realize it yet. The future of computing lay in hosted software—apps based on a remote server but used through a local, client-side Web browser.

Today, most users would say that software is alive and well. Consumers buy the vast majority of their software either in a box or through a download. Businesses continue to buy license packs. Nearly everything runs locally.

However, recent years have seen a quiet, yet growing number of exceptions. Gmail, officially launched in 2005, is often credited with popularizing Web-based email and spearheading the growing line of Google Apps, but Hotmail has been with us since 1996. Microsoft debuted Windows Live in 2005, and the “Live” moniker is slowly growing to envelop Microsoft’s consumer roster. Today, some elements of Live are still client-based, but others reside in the “cloud,” the generic, modern term for Internet-based applications powered by remote servers. For example, Microsoft Office Live is a Web-based set of tools for online storage, file sharing, Web site design, and site hosting. Only the hosting carries a fee. These tools are designed to integrate with conventional, client-side Office, but Office Live apps can still stand independently. 

For something even more forward-looking, check out Microsoft’s Live Mesh, a multi-device synchronization platform able to span Windows, Windows Mobile, and OS X. Mesh also incorporates cloud storage and remote desktop elements. Slowly but surely, we’re circling back to the concept of thin clients and expanding it such that every computing device can be a thin client and the servers are no longer in one’s building, but reside somewhere “out there” on one or more data farms. Is it any wonder that Intel is throwing so much muscle behind the curiously-retro Atom processor, a chip drastically underpowered when compared against Core-based designs, but designed to excel on thin devices?

No, software may not be dead, but it’s certainly evolving, and businesses look likely to reap the biggest near-term benefits. If you’ve thought that “cloud computing” was some cheesy catchphrase meant for the Fortune 500, get ready for an eye-opener. All the lessons that Microsoft has learned since 2005 have been poured into the new Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), a part of Microsoft Online Services. Essentially, BPOS is an enterprise-class, cloud-based messaging and collaboration platform that renders the old box-and-license software model obsolete. That’s a pretty grandiose statement, but bear with us and you’ll see what we mean. There is nothing else quite like BPOS on the market today, and, particularly in a down economy, it has the potential to save businesses of any size a lot of money and improve how they operate in the process.

  • cadder
    Web-based apps have very poor performance, even for something as simple and basic as email. Software on your own computer will always perform better and be more responsive, as well as have many more capabilities. Not to mention eliminate the continual problems almost all users have with internet access and remote server reliability. I will continue to purchase software to run on my own computer independent of web access.
  • wicko
    You know, when I first read the title, the first thing that came to my mind was "Microsoft's Big Piece of Shit". ME, is that you?
  • bob boblaw
    Can Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) reignite our hope-strewn love affair with cloud computing?
    Who is the "our" in this? I don't recall ever liking cloud computing. Or is that thoughtcrime?
  • descendency
    cadderWeb-based apps have very poor performance, even for something as simple and basic as email.Poor application design. Actually, your own example is the worst you could have picked. ANY application you use for email could be easily written to use the same UI as a Silverlight application. While the software is not local to your machine, the computing will be. So, the only real loss will be at loading time for the application (which if done well will be minimal). The rest would be identical (as a matter of fact, if the code is written in a .NET language already, it could be nearly directly ported to Silverlight... so saying it would be identical would be dead on.). Just because the install isn't local doesn't mean the processing can't be.

    Gaming will require a major boost in internet speed before it can be offloaded successful (because sending huge amounts of textures, models, and other media just isn't possible across the average cable connection yet). The only applications that can't be ported are ones where massive data transmission is required constantly. However, applications like MS Word will be easy to port especially if the files are all stored local.

    Let me give you an example of a RIA (rich internet application) you use without even realizing it... If you do any online shopping, you use a RIA. How many desktop applications do you own for shopping on the internet? Zero? Yea. That's because when a RIA is designed well enough, the "desktop applications are better" mentality is foolish.
  • matt2k
    is it just me or does this just look like a business version of google wave?
  • Heyw00d
    I'm with wicko = BPoS = Big Piece of Shit!
  • NeatOman
    The matter of fact is simple... Right now you don't own you OS or the Software on it, and it can (has been) change at any time without your consent. That is because like stated in the article, you do not own the software and as with any license it can be taken away. This is just the next step where they want to get you to give up you physical computer and only give you a terminal.

    The reality is that there really is very little if no benefit from "cloud" computing, and the only reason no one could figure out what the benefits were is because there are non for the user.
  • lordfisch
    NeatOmanThe reality is that there really is very little if no benefit from "cloud" computing, and the only reason no one could figure out what the benefits were is because there are non for the user.Other than, you know, costing a small fraction of local versions. And never having to update. And never having to deal with a hijacked license. And not having artificial "install limits." And not carrying around countless boxes of install CDs. And not, and not, and not...
  • in order to support cloud for ALL applications and games,the internet needs to change and become at least 10 times, if not 100 times faster than it currently can.
    Also limitations of 15GB/month need to go. bandwidth limitations need to go in order to get cloud working.

    I see only cloud computing working in lower performing apps,not in games or video.
  • erichlund
    Performance and quality may be issues today, but cloud computing will mature over time. However as a user in a classified environment, and even for users in a sensitive business environment, there are times when you just don't want your information attached to the internet. That means dedicated apps. So, where the author cannot think on one reason, I certainly can.